You want to know what I’ve been doing this week while the Kavanaugh hearings have been happening? I’ve been reading escapist literature. Obsessively. I’ve been trying not to hear. But a few times, I’ve cracked a little, like last night when I watched the Ford testimony after seeing that it was a big news item yesterday. Like when a Charlotte friend Nadine asked this week on facebook how women she knew had been taught to deal with sexual assault. I cracked a little…the hard surface that I cultivated for years experienced a slight fissure.
Earlier this year I watched the #metoo movement go by me with near contempt. And every once in a while I’d experience a slight crack, a fissure in the facade of my life. I’d read a story and I’d have a moment and I’d think for a second that I should maybe say something. But I have never said anything. I was never a talker. I didn’t want to be, “That girl.”
I wanted to be strong.
I was barely past dream state when it first happened. I was in the very first years of my life. When I could think of it later, you know what I said to myself? NO.
The second time it happened, at the hands of a family member, I was maybe twelve. Staying with an Aunt and Uncle. My uncle french kissed me. I wasn’t a talker, and I never told anyone. Instead I wrote him a four page (front and back) letter explaining all the reasons he was an asshole. As a woman, when I’ve mentioned it, I always say, “He never tried to kiss me again. I guess he didn’t like to read.” But also I said no in the way I could. In my way.
I never told anyone. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone with something I could handle. I told myself I’d handle it and not inconvenience anyone. I didn’t tell my mom, or my aunt. I just kept the secret because you don’t tell. You never tell.
So when people started #metooing all over the internet last year, all I could think was, “You are breaking the rules. It’s a secret. Nobody should be inconvenienced.
By the time I was 18, I’d known two of my aunts (whom I love) had been held at gunpoint by husbands, and they stayed. I’d learned from the very uncle who tried to french kiss me at twelve that “normal girls marry boys.”
I joined the army at 18 and I worked. I’ve always worked to be as strong as I can, to be as independent, as maybe….difficult…as I can so I’d never have to be in that place…in that awful, small place where I couldn’t fight back. I was in the Army, I’ve ridden my bike in every city I’ve lived in, I guided a raft for seven years at forty. You know why? Because I am strong enough to do those things. I am not powerless, and I never want to be. In that place where I am small and I don’t matter. Where you are more powerful than me and a bastard. Where my NO means nothing.
Yesterday I was caught off guard, by a lady in glasses, who said, “Indelible in the hippocampus is laughter.” That’s what she said. She used both the words indelible and hippocampus in the same sentence. I heard her do it. I saw her shake and well up in front of a room full of people and tell. Are we supposed to tell? I’m not even sure what that means. I always wanted to keep my family safe and keep the secrets so they wouldn’t look bad or be embarrassed or put out just because of me. I thought I was just supposed to make sure I made myself strong enough so next time I’d have a fighting chance.
I thought this whole time I was saying, in all my–feats of strength, “Fuck you,” to the establishment. But maybe I was just saying that everyone else’s dignity was more important than my own.
I read a lot yesterday, of people saying, “It was so long ago.” “What if we went back in everyone’s history?” I just kept thinking about all the men I know now who I am certain never sexually assaulted or raped anyone. I believe in my heart that it would be an insult to the men I know to think that they had.
A while ago I raised a daughter, and I do hope that what she learned from me is that she has the right to her own body. It’s hers. She has the right to say yes or no as she pleases and to demand that she be heard. I always remember this. I remembered it on my way home tonight. In her senior yearbook, under her photo where seniors are quoted for whatever they might want to say, she quoted a great lady who was her favorite research subject in school. Her yearbook quote says this: “No.”–Rosa Parks.